The coaching casualties continue to pile up in MLS, with Brad Friedel becoming the third coach fired in the 2019 season, making things interesting as we draw closer to the summer.
While coaches are falling, trades and transfers were flying at the close of the MLS transfer window. Portland's acquisition of Argentine forward Brian Fernandez was the headliner, but there were several other quality pick-ups that should help as teams gear up for the grind of the summer months.
This week's slate of matches features some intriguing intra-conference tilts as well as some rivalry battles from Cascadia to the Rocky Mountains.
Here are some key talking points for the 11th week of the 2019 MLS season.
What's next for the Revs after Friedel firing?
Brad Friedel's stint as New England Revolution coach was as short as his playing career was long, lasting just 10 matches into his second season, and after a disastrous run of results, the legendary former goalkeeper was left looking like a man who probably jumped into a head coaching job too early.
Will a coaching change help turn things around? Revs general manager Mike Burns is hoping so, otherwise he might finally start feeling the heat for his team's struggles, which have been going on since New England's last playoff berth in 2015.
“We feel that we have a better team and a better roster than what the results have previously shown," Burns told reporters on Friday, making it clear he beleves New England is capable of winning with the squad currently assembled. There hasn't been much reason to believe that based on the team's form in 2019, but Burns has no choice but to sell that line because the alternative is he put together a mediocre team after what was supposed to be a winter roster revamping.
The reality in New England is that the Revs have been a mediocre team for the better part of a decade, which is close to how long Burns has been the team's general manager. The days of the Revolution being among the league's elite thanks to a nucleus built through outstanding use of the MLS Draft — where the likes of Taylor Twellman, Clint Dempsey and Michael Parkhurst helped the Revs reach four MLS Cup finals — are over. Present-day MLS revolves much less around good drafting and more around good international player signings and moreso lately, developing good homegrown talent.
The Revs' track record on the international player market has been disappointing to say the least. Landing true difference-makers has been a challenge for Burns and the Revs, and while part of that could be down to New England ownership being unwilling to spend, the league's increase in allocation money has given all MLS teams the resources to seek out better foreign talent and the Revs haven't really capitalized on that.
Spanish playmaker Carles Gil looks to be a potential exception, and Colombian striker Juan Caicedo has shown some flashes, but their contributions haven't helped make up for the lackluster production of the team's foreign signings of recent years.
The Revs need to start improving on the international player front or they will never return to the league's elite, and Friedel's failings should serve as a clear sign that hiring an inexperienced coach to lead a team with a weak roster isn't the formula for success.
As for Friedel, his first head coaching job went poorly, but he remains a valuable resource in American soccer because of his vast experience. An assistant coach position should be in his future, and he could be a good fit for the U.S. national team staff if current USMNT lead assistant Josh Wolff winds up leaving to take one of the available MLS head coaching jobs. Gregg Berhalter and Friedel were teammates on the 2002 U.S. World Cup team, along with USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart.
As for New England, it will likely take more than just hiring another coach to really turn things around, but you don't get a sense the team is ready to complete the type of major front office overhaul needed to transform a squad that has been stuck in neutral for years.
Match of the week: Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo
The Houston Dynamo are one of the surprises of the early season, and while last week's Texas Derby win against FC Dallas was impressive, a road win at Seattle would qualify as their best victory of the season.
Wilmer Cabrera's men have been feasting on the counterattack, which won't necessarily be easy against a disciplined Sounders side. Gustav Svennsson's absence hurts, but Jordy Delem put in a good shift last week in his place. Getting Kelvin Leerdam back from suspension will be big as the Sounders try to cope with Houston's wingers, but the big challenge will be Brad Smith matching up against the ever-dangerous Alberth Elis. Chad Marshall's battle with Mauro Manotas will be one to watch of course, with Marshall's positioning and experience serving him well against the in-form Manotas.
The Dynamo defense has been one of the most improved units in MLS this season, but they will have their hands full if Raul Ruidiaz is ready to return to the Sounders lineup. His mobility, ability to make smart runs and connect well with Nicolas Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez will test Houston's center backs in a way they haven't been often this season. Now, if Ruidiaz still isn't ready to start, then the Sounders attack will be much easier for Houston to deal with, and the Dynamo are well-positioned for the road win.
If Tomas Martinez can capitalize on Delem, then Houston could pull the upset, but Seattle is at home and due for a win after three straight draws.
With three head coaching jobs now in play, the list of potential candidates for those jobs should yield some familiar names, and Bruce Arena will be at the top of some lists as a coach who has won and also rebuilt struggling teams before. His work to transform the LA Galaxy from laughing stock to dynasty may have taken place a decade ago, but he is sure to field a few phone calls from teams interested in drawing him out of coaching unemployment. As it stands, Arena is set to do television work for FOX during the Gold Cup, but the right job offer in MLS just might lure him back for another run, and a shot for some redemption after his failed second stint as U.S. national team coach.
The New England Revolution could be a potential destination for Arena, who spoke with the Revs about their head coaching position prior to New England hiring Brad Friedel. Sources tell Goal that Arena ultimately passed on the opportunity because he was more interested in having full control as head coach and sporting director, similar to the role he held with the LA Galaxy. Given New England's struggles, you have to wonder if the Revs might be more open to offering him that sort of role now.
Which teams fared the best in the past week's flurry of trades? The Philadelphia Union were able to stockpile some allocation money by dealing David Accam to Columbus and Derrick Jones to 2020 expansion side Nashville SC, acquiring $675,000 in allocation money between now and next season. That isn't going to help them in the short-term, but given how well the team is playing, and how many bench options are thriving, the allocation funds should come in handy this summer when the team goes shopping for another striker.
The Colorado Rapids were busy as well, though their moves wreaked a bit more of desperation. The $650,000 in allocation plus an international roster spot paid for young winger Jonathan Lewis felt exorbitant, especially with Lewis due to lose his Generation adidas roster designation in 2020. Lewis has shown flashes of promise, but the Rapids just paid an all-star price for him.
The best bargain among the wheeling and dealing? It could be Atlanta United's acquisition of veteran winger Justin Meram from Columbus for $100,000 in allocation and a 2020 second-round pick. With Ezequiel Barco set to play in the Under-20 World Cup with Argentina, and the potential for Darlington Nagbe and Pity Martinez to receive national team call-ups in the coming months, adding a player like Meram to provide some depth and doing it at a discount was smart business, even with Meram still being active with the Iraq national team, leaving him open for international duty.
Week 11 Predictions
WHITECAPS 2. Timbers 1. Fredy Montero builds on his strong showing a week ago and punishes a familiar foe.
FC CINCINNATI 2, Impact 0. Cincy players have a chance to show that Alan Koch was at the root of the team's recent struggles, and a big win against Montreal would support that theory.
FC DALLAS 2, Red Bulls 0. Aaron Long's likely absence with a hamstring injury will be a big blow to the Red Bulls defense, and could allow Michael Barrios and Jesus Ferreira the freedom to enjoy big days.
TORONTO FC 2, Union 1. The TFC defense has been shaky for a while, is coming off a midweek game, and Philly's attack is rolling. So why pick Toronto? Jozy Altidore's return leads the way.
Galaxy 1, NYCFC 2. With Jonathan Dos Santos a question mark with a hamstring injury, the Galaxy could find it tough to keep NYCFC's attack from taking advantage of the big field at Dignity Health Sports Park. Maxi Moralez scores the winner.
Crew 0, LAFC 2. Can Columbus build on its midweek win against the LA Galaxy? Don't bet on it. The LAFC attack has managed just one goal in two matches, but Bob Bradley's squad is due for a breakout.
Revolurion 1, EARTHQUAKES 2. The good news for the Revs is they won't surrender five goals. The bad news is they still won't be able to contain the Earthquakes.
Fire 1, MINNESOTA UNITED 2. Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing of New England should work wonders for the Fire's confidence, and Francisco Calvio will be motivated to beat his former team, but the Loons aren't the Revs, and they won't give the Fire easy looks like New England did.
Rapids 1, REAL SALT LAKE 3. The Rocky Mountain Derby features two teams desperate for a win, and while the Rapids are at home, RSL has been playing the better soccer lately.
SOUNDERS 2, Dynamo 1. Houston has been rolling, but the Sounders are back home with a potentially healthy Raul Ruidiaz and enjoy their best match in weeks.
ATLANTA UNITED 3, Orlando City 0. The champs are rolling, while Orlando City has slowed down and will struggle to deal with Josef Martinez, who has broken out of his slump.
D.C. UNITED 3, Sporting Kansas City 1. Benny Feilhaber's return to Sporting KC should help deal with SKC's injury issues, but it won't help its defense stop a D.C. side coming off a confidence-boosting performance.